In The Know: Standardizing criminal sentencing | Improving probation, parole services | Oklahoma Co. grand jury convened

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Interim study explores improving probation and parole services (Capitol Update): Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, Chair of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, is determined to use his background in corrections work to help reform criminal justice in Oklahoma. Humphrey sponsored a nearly six-hour interim study in his committee last week to look at how to improve probation and parole services, specifically addressing State Question 780 that changed simple drug possession and small-time theft offenses to misdemeanors. Some district attorneys and law enforcement contend that misdemeanor charges do not provide a sufficient threat to incentivize people with substance abuse problems to seek treatment. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Breaking Down a Proposal to Standardize Criminal Sentencing in Oklahoma: The debate over a proposal to standardize Oklahoma’s complex criminal code is heating up, with justice reform advocates arguing it would cause the state prison population to creep up over the next decade. Unlike most states, including neighboring Kansas and Arkansas, Oklahoma doesn’t classify felonies by severity. Lawmakers have instead opted to add and remove crimes and their sentencing ranges individually, resulting in a winding list of offenses in the Oklahoma Statutes. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma County grand jury seated to investigate jail and Pardon and Parole Board: An Oklahoma County grand jury was seated Monday for the first time in more than two decades. Grand jurors will investigate the operation of the troubled county jail and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Gov. Stitt, State Attorney General Take on Biden Over Employer Vaccine Mandates: Oklahoma is preparing to go to court, again. This time Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on a video message that he and Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor are ready to sue the Biden Administration if and when the federal emergency rules are in place. The moves comes about a month after President Joe Biden announced that he plans to order a new vaccine mandate that will cover about 100 million American, including thousands of Oklahomans. [Oklahoma Watch]

Norman’s Democratic lawmakers ask for independent redistricting process: Norman’s Democrat state lawmakers significantly benefited from proposed redistricting maps that make their districts more blue and re-election a safer bid, but all say they want a redistricting process that takes politicians out of the equation. [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma advocacy, community agencies impacted by 2020 Census numbers: As area children and youth are getting acclimated to the world mid-pandemic, with school changes, childcare challenges, and many other stressors for families, two statewide agencies are working together to survey the state in preparation for upcoming advocacy efforts to meet the needs of Oklahoma’s youth. [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Regulation of medical marijuana frustrating growers, lawmakers in Oklahoma: Frustrated by years of gridlock over cannabis regulation, a newly formed marijuana advocacy group wants to enshrine new marijuana regulations into the state Constitution. [CNHI via Claremore Daily Progress]

Federal Government News

Inhofe says he’s ‘concerned’ about recyclability of renewable energy tech: Oklahoma’s senior U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is expressing concern about how “green” renewable energy sources really are. “As the Biden administration continues to push materials like wind turbines as renewable technology, I’m reminded of a Bloomberg article from 2020 titled, ‘Wind Turbine Blades Can’t be Recycled, so They’re Piling Up in Landfills,'” Inhofe wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation leaders seeing progress on federal matters but still ready for statehouse lobbying: Cherokee Nation leaders are seeing progress on issues at the federal level, but that doesn’t mean they’ve turned a blind eye to the state capitol. First up is the special session to redraw state legislative and congressional district boundaries, which starts Nov. 15. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Group decries sentencing of Oklahoma woman for miscarriage: A national advocacy group for women on Monday blasted the sentencing of a 21-year-old Oklahoma woman to prison for a manslaughter conviction after she suffered a miscarriage while using methamphetamine. Brittney Poolaw, of Lawton, was sentenced to four years in prison this month after a jury convicted her of first-degree manslaughter. [AP News] “Ms. Poolaw’s case is a tragedy. She has suffered the trauma of pregnancy loss, has been jailed for a year and half during a pandemic, and was charged and convicted of a crime without basis in law or science,” reads a news release from advocacy group National Advocates for Pregnant Women. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Supreme Court says two Tahlequah police officers had immunity in fatal shooting: Two Tahlequah police officers who killed a man wielding a hammer in a confrontation in 2016 should not be held legally liable for their actions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in reversing an appeals court decision. [The Oklahoman]

Execution dates need to be stricken, attorney says: An attorney for death row inmates challenging the state’s lethal injection process said execution dates should be stricken in light of a recent federal appeals court ruling. On Friday, a federal court of appeals ordered that the Oklahoma death row prisoners be reinstated to the long-running federal lawsuit. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County Jail Trust adopts timeline for implementing action recommendations: Monday, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) heard some public comments, authorized two service contracts, and adopted a timeline for implementing some recommendations from the Detention Center Action Committee (DCAC). [OKC Free Press]

Economy & Business News

A lawsuit over projects to boost shipping in Virginia is on the radar of an Oklahoma waterways group: An environmental nonprofit is suing a federal government agency over work to expand barge traffic in Virginia, and that has a group focused on Oklahoma waterways on high alert. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit last week against the U.S. Maritime Administration for its Marine Highway program. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Oklahoma’s Average ACT Score Improves, But Participation Declined: Oklahoma’s average ACT composite score climbed 1 point in 2021, though far fewer students took the exam due to pandemic cancellations. The state’s class of 2021 averaged a 19.7 on the ACT, according to data released Wednesday (see table below). The national average was 20.3 on the exam, which has a maximum score of 35. [Oklahoma Watch]

State lawmakers get update on test-optional college admissions in Oklahoma: Fall 2021 was the first semester several Oklahoma institutions used a test-optional admissions program, and officials from the state’s two largest universities briefed lawmakers on how it went. OU officials said almost 36% of their new students applied without submitting a score from the ACT or SAT. At OSU, it was around 20%. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Survey: Pandemic continues to put a strain on Oklahoma teachers: Oklahoma teachers continue to be on the front lines of the pandemic, and it’s stressing them out. That’s according to a September online poll the Oklahoma Education Association sent to its members. In the survey, 94% of teachers said a student in their building has contracted COVID-19 this school year, 82% said a colleague has and 27% said they personally have caught COVID. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Autry superintendent: ‘Demand is the big thing’ for future full-time programs: Enid’s CareerTech center is looking down the workforce pipeline for its next big program, its new leader said Monday. Autry Technology Center Superintendent/CEO Dwight Hughes said the school is looking into starting a program for poly-fusion, a pipe material fusion process that he said more oil and gas companies are starting to use in their pipelines. [Enid News & Eagle]

General News

Cities, counties in South urged to confront lynching history: It’s no secret the South accounted for the majority of the 6,500 Black people killed from lynchings between 1865 to 1950 following the abolition of slavery but lynchings also occurred throughout the U.S. While some communities have faced that past through markers and memorials recognizing those victims and incidents, Equal Justice Initiative is pushing for more cities and counties to commemorate the victims and acknowledge their history. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City of Oklahoma City offers signing bonuses for hard-to-fill positions [OKC Free Press]
  • Commissioners allocate money to rental assistance, finalize Triple X Road contracts [OKC Free Press]
  • Redistricting process begins for Lawton City Council wards [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“Our sentencing code in Oklahoma, for the 40 years I’ve been practicing, has been a total mishmash.”

-Oklahoma County Chief Public Defender Bob Ravitz speaking during an interim study on sentencing reform [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults who reported having difficulty covering usual household expenses in September, compared to 28% nationally. [CBPP]

Policy Note

Tracking the COVID-19 Economy’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships: While employment is rising and strains on household budgets have eased in recent months, the employment rate remains below pre-pandemic levels, and millions still report that their households did not get enough to eat or are not caught up on rent payments. We are able to track the extent of the nation’s progress against hardship thanks to nearly real-time data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and other sources. [CBPP]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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